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Pass the Remote: The Progression of Remote Working in Fresh Produce

Pass the Remote: The Progression of Remote Working in Fresh Produce

While vacationing in several states this summer, I was conscious of all of the people who appeared to be working remotely. When we first wrote The Next Normal: Post Pandemic Pivots as an Employer in the 2021 September issue, we knew then that the workplace had changed. But where is it going from here? 

With the unique challenges specific to the produce industry, we have to evaluate which jobs can truly be done remotely. Essential workers, relationship-based partnerships, and long hours can complicate this. Not to mention, a large part of our industry relies on commodity sales, where keeping your finger on the pulse of daily markets and communicating closely with one’s team is critical to getting the job done. On the other hand, as a larger focus sharpens on brand development, value-added products, and program sales, there are more positions that fit within remote parameters. 

There are two things our industry will need to accept, regardless of whether or not remote work remains a constant in the future: Leadership positions are becoming remote and our talent pool is aging. In order to make this work, companies have to think about the strength of their teams and leaders. Strong leadership and clear expectations are as crucial as ever. 

The younger generation has a different view of professional life, prioritizing balance and flexibility while still joining cultures that care for them and encourage growth. We have seen some companies lose good people due to a lack of flexibility and balance, which is extremely important to the younger folks. It is important to be realistic about this if you want to attract and retain people who are in the first 10–15 years of their career.

It can feel counterintuitive to think about how to accommodate the younger generation of workers—who want to work remotely—but also need development and mentorship. Speaking as an executive recruiter, employee, and senior leader, I can safely share that performance, communication, and teamwork are three key factors that make bosses more comfortable with remote working situations. 

With all this in mind, the onus of whether or not the position you’re hiring for is remote, hybrid, or in-office lies with you, the employer. You can make it work in whatever ways best suit your business. Costs of technological investments and travel figure here as well if the traditional in-office experience is not an option.  

Whatever position they choose—remote, hybrid, or in-office—you should never waver on an employee’s integrity and dedication to the job.

For Employers


 The same quality of work, if not better

 The same level of confidentiality and discretion

 Adherence to company policies 


 Managing performance differently; you can manage what you can measure in many cases 

 Less team interaction/bonding 

➤ Fluctuation in work hours 

For employees, working remotely might mean putting in extra time to make sure you get the high level of mentoring you’d receive while in the office. This means communication—yes, it goes both ways!

For Employees


 The proper tools and training to do your job

 Opportunities to develop your career 

 Boundaries when it comes to your personal time


 Less face time with colleagues and decision makers in your organization

 Inability to observe and learn from others as they perform their job while working in the same space

 Remote work is a privilege, not a right, and can change if the employer wishes it to 

Remote work is changing the industry. We’ve had a few surprises with clients lately who were never flexible before and are now willing to offer remote and hybrid positions. Time will tell where this trend takes us, but it’s never too early to evaluate where your company stands. 

There is no guarantee that remote work will remain prevalent in produce regardless of what the allover data and projections tell us regarding remote working trends. The work has to get done, and here in North America, we will need to remain competitive with other parts of the world who, according to the data, have not strongly embraced the concept of remote work. We know our industry requires a specific breed of work ethic and drive, and that, at the very least, is one point from which we’ll never waver. 

Contributing Author

Senior Director, Joe Produce Search℠. Julie leads the Joe Produce Search℠ team, leveraging more than 20 years of experience in executive search. Produce is not a job, it’s a lifestyle. Once you “check the boxes” on skills and experience, the real job becomes matching the people with the culture of the business and leadership. This takes time, expertise, and a robust process Julie and the Joe Produce Search℠ team know well. Joe Produce Search℠ is composed of experienced search consultants and produce professionals. Placements range from middle management to C-level positions throughout North America, covering a wide range of produce and produce-related businesses.